Top spots at Exeter City Hall look different at the start of 2018
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
EXETER – The City of Exeter will have to tread some uncharted waters in 2018.
Strolling through the last couple of months of 2017, the City hired a new finance director in Chris Tavarez, were in the interview phase of hiring a new police chief to replace interim chief Jeff McIntosh and hired interim city manager Eric Frost to replace departed city manager Randy Groom.
Of course before that, the City was forced to shift from its at-large form of elections to district elections. The implications of which will have to be played out this November when three seats including mayor Teresa Boyce, vice mayor Mary Waterman and councilman Gordon Gerdes come up for re-election.
All of the shifting around initially made some weary about how the organization would change, and for good reason. When department heads leave at once or within a year, there is bound to be some unpredictability.
“We have our work cut out for us, that’s for sure…the dynamic of the City is going to be different,” said councilman Jeremy Petty in an interview with the Sun-Gazette in November.
There is some hope that those worries are alleviated with the hiring of Frost. On Tuesday, Dec. 19 the Council voted to appoint him as interim city manager, he is prepared to start as early as this week. And the shift from Groom to Frost is a strategic move since both have decades of experience in municipal government.
Frost has been working in local government for over 30 years. Having started as an intern with the City of Visalia in 1982, he became assistant finance director within the decade and then took on the finance director position in Watsonville, Calif. in 1991. He returned to Visalia in 2003 as an administrative services director until he became deputy city manager. It was not until April of this year that he retired.
Since his retirement he has been doing some governmental odds and ends around the area. Frost contracted with the City of Lindsay for six months to help new finance director Bret Harmon settle the City’s struggling financial outlook, which is a similar task to Exeter’s current budget deficit.
Just two months ago the City filled former finance director Sheri Emerson’s position with Tavarez. And in the fiscal year Exeter was looking at how to hack away at a mounting $345,000 budget gap. Groom has long believed that the outlook for the City is not likely to fix itself and they will have to turn to voters to increase the City’s sales tax rate. Fortunately for Exeter Frost played a large role as Visalia’s liaison while the City was campaigning for their sales tax increase Measure N. Provided that Exeter will have to put a sales tax increase on ballot in November 2018 Frost might be the right person to enter the situation at the right time.
“It’s a good match…[ Exeter also has] a new finance director and I was a finance director for 30 years…there’s just a natural fit,” Frost said in an interview with the Sun-Gazette last month.
Groom indicated, before leaving for Visalia that the City was close to a decision on their next police chief. He said in November that the aim is to hire a chief who can plan to fill the position for the next three to five years and help groom up and coming officers within the department to fill his position later on.